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Convergence to help forge RPMP-RPA-ABB closure deal – OPAPP

BACOLOD CITY, PHILIPPINES – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) continues to stress that convergence plays a key role in the forging of a closure pact with the Tabara-Paduano Group (TPG) of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas-Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB).

The closure pact, which is set to be signed within the first quarter of 2012, will mark the transformation of the RPMP-RPA-ABB from an armed group into a socio-political organization.

As 2011 came to a close, OPAPP officials met with key local government officials, the military and civil society groups in Negros and Panay islands to discuss prospects for convergence as the closure pact draft nears completion.

In November, OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles met with some of the municipal chief executives of Negros Occidental to personally brief them on the status of the RPMP-RPA-ABB peace track.

She underscored the importance of putting a closure to the decade-old peace pact with the group. “It’s time that the RPMP-RPA-ABB fully reintegrate themselves into mainstream society as citizens contributing to enhance the peace and development conditions in their communities. With the signing of the closure pact, they will no longer be called an armed group, but a legally-recognized organization.”

Forged in 2000 during the term of President Joseph Estrada, the RPMP-RPA-ABB claims that most of the provisions stipulated in the agreement remain unimplemented. In 2007, RPMP-RPA-ABB split into two factions, the Tabara-Paduano Group and the Nilo Dela Cruz Group or NDLCG. . By the start of the P-Noy Administration in July, 2010, the GPH-RPMP/RPA/ABB peace agreement was being implemented with two sets of leadership – the Tabara-Paduano tandem and Nilo dela Cruz. Under the closure track, the Government agreed to engage both leaders and their members separately. Thus a separate negotiating table with the NDCG is also underway, with the assistance of NAPC Secretary Eliseo Rocamora.

OPAPP Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo also mentioned convergence as a strategy during a planning workshop with officials of Negros Island held January 12 in this city. "Engagement of the local governments is key in ensuring smooth implementation of the envisioned closure pact," he said.

Montalbo has met with regional line agencies, representatives from the business sector, military officers, the Peace Advocates of Negros (PAN), and other civil society leaders.

OPAPP Director Alexander Umpar of OPAPP’s Peace Accord Monitoring Secretariat has also been consulting with key leaders and technical staff as the secretariat prepares for the closure pact.
Formalizing convergence

OPAPP recently signed separate agreements with the Provincial Local Government Units (PLGUs) of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental to formalize convergence efforts for the forthcoming RPMP-RPA-ABB deal.

OPAPP is set to provide policy guidance and directions as it helps PLGUs identify projects and interventions in communities affected by armed conflict. Technical working groups composed of officials from the province, municipalities, cities and barangays have started to convene to determine gaps and needs of target communities.
Funds will be for projects and interventions under PAMANA or Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities), the government’s program and framework for peace and development. None of the funds will go directly to individual RPMP-RPA-ABB members.

Both memoranda of agreements underscore the importance of convergence. As stated in the documents, OPAPP and the respective PLGUs recognize the “imperatives of building critical partnership, collaboration, and cooperation in carrying out the PAMANA program in support of the peace process.”

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